Folk-Tales of the Magyars, The UNDER CONSTRUCTION | Annotated Tale

Hussar and the Servant Girl, The

THE wife of a priest in olden times, it may have been in the antediluvian world, put all the plates, dishes, and milk-jugs into a basket and sent the servant to wash them in the brook. While the girl was washing she saw a cray-fish crawl out of the water, and, as she had never seen one in her life before, she stood staring at it, and was a little frightened. It so happened that a hussar rode past on horseback, and the girl asked him, "Would you mind telling me, my gallant horseman, what sort of a God's wonder that yonder is?" "Well, my sister," said the soldier, "that is a cray-fish." The servant then took courage, and went near the cray-fish to look at it, and said, "But it crawls!" "But it's a cray-fish," said the soldier again. "But it crawls," said the servant abruptly. "But it's a cray-fish," said the soldier a third time. "Well, my gallant horseman, how can you stand there and tell me that, when I can see that it crawls?" said the servant. "But, my sister, how can you stand there and tell me, when I can see that it's a cray-fish?" said the soldier. "Well, I'm neither blind nor a fool, and I can see quite well that it's a-crawling," said the servant. "But neither am I blind nor a fool, and I can see that it is a cray-fish," said the soldier.

               The servant got so angry that she dashed her crockery to the ground and broke it into fragments, crying, in a great rage, "May I perish here if it is not a-crawling!" The hussar jumped off his saddle, drew his sword, and cut off his horse's head, saying, "May the executioner cut off my neck like this if it isn't a cray-fish!" The soldier went his way on foot, and the servant went home without her ware, and the priest's wife asked, "Well, where are all the pots?" The servant told her what had happened between the soldier and her about a cray-fish and a-crawling. "Is that the reason why you have done all the damage?" said the priest's wife. "Oh, mistress, how could I give in when I saw quite well that it was a-crawling; and still that nasty soldier kept on saying it was a cray-fish?" The wife of the priest was heating the oven, as she was going to bake, and she got into such a rage that she seized her new fur jacket, for which she had given a hundred florins, and pitched it into the oven, saying, "May the flames of the fire burn me like this if you were not both great fools!" "What is all this smell of burning?" asked the priest, coming in. Learning what had happened about a cray-fish and a-crawling, he took his gown and cut it up on the threshold with a hatchet, saying, "May the executioner cut me into bits like this if the three of you are not fools!" Then came the schoolmaster (his calf had got loose and run into the clergyman's yard, and he had come after it to drive it home): and, hearing what had happened, and why, he caught hold of a stick, and struck his calf such a blow on the head that it fell down dead on the spot, exclaiming, "If God will, may the fiery thunderbolt thus strike me dead if you all four are not fools!"

               Then came the churchwarden, and asked what had happened there, and when he was told he got into such a rage that he picked up the church-box and dashed it on the ground in the middle of the yard, so that the box was broken to pieces, and the precious altar-covers and linen were rolling about on the dirty ground, saying, "May I perish like this, at this very hour, if the whole five of you are not fools!"

               In the meantime the sacristan came in, and, seeing the linen on the floor, he threw up his hands and said, "Well, I never! whatever's the matter?" Then they told him what had happened, and why, whereupon he picked up all the covers and linen and tore them into shreds, saying, "May the devil tear me to atoms like this if you six are not a parcel of raving lunatics!"

               News of the event soon got abroad, and the whole congregation gathered together and set the priest's house on fire, crying, "May the flames of the fire burn us all like this, every one of us, if all the seven were not fools!" [1]


Kriza xix.


                Cf. Dasent, "The Dancing Gang," p. 507; and the "Drop of Honey," in Payne's Arabian Nights, vol. v. p. 275, where, we are told, "a certain man used to hunt the wild beasts in the desert, and one day he came upon a grotto in the mountains, where he found a hollow full of bees' honey. So he took somewhat thereof in a water-skin he had with him, and, throwing it over his shoulder, carried it to the city, followed by a hunting dog which was dear to him. He stopped at the shop of an oilman, and offered him the honey for sale, and he bought it. Then he emptied it out of the skin, that he might see it, and in the act a drop fell to the ground; whereupon the flies flocked to it, and a bird swooped down upon the flies. Now, the oilman had a cat, which pounced upon the bird, and the huntsman's dog, seeing the cat, sprang upon it and killed it; whereupon the oilman ran at the dog and killed it; and the huntsman in turn leapt upon the oilman and killed him. Now the oilman was of one village and the huntsman of another; and when the people of the two places heard what had passed, they took up arms and rose on one another in anger, and there befel a sore battle; nor did the sword cease to play amongst them till there died of them much people; none knoweth their number save God the Most High." See also, "The Book of Sindibad," Folk-Lore Society, 1882, p. 133.


[1] The zest of this tale turns upon a similarity in the sound of the words in Magyar for "cray-fish," and "crawling."

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Hussar and the Servant Girl, The
Tale Author/Editor: Jones, W. Henry & Kropf, Lewis L.
Book Title: Folk-Tales of the Magyars, The UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Book Author/Editor: Jones, W. Henry & Kropf, Lewis L.
Publisher: Elliot Stock
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1889
Country of Origin: Hungary
Classification: unclassified

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